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266                  HISTORY OF PERSIA                  CHAP.
seclusion, and employed the European and his arts to
strengthen his country. The breadth of his outlook is
shown by his behaviour towards the Armenians. Instead
of treating these Christian captives as slaves, he transported
five thousand families with all their possessions from
Julfa on the Aras to a new Julfa close to Isfahan. There
they speedily took root and prospered and helped to open
up trade with other countries. So flourishing was the
Christian centre thus founded that, until quite recently,
all Europeans, whether missionaries or merchants, who
had business at Isfahan, took up their residence in this
Armenian village. An attempt was made to establish a
second colony in Mazanderan, but this proved a complete
failure in consequence of the malarious climate, which
killed off the Armenians by hundreds.
His Encouragement of Pilgrimages. — In nothing was
the practical genius of Shah Abbas more clearly shown
than, in the difficult task of consolidating the various
tribes and peoples that dwelt in Iran. This he effected
in great measure by encouraging the idea that Meshed
was the national centre for pilgrimage and the special
glory of the Shia world. In the belief that practice is
better than precept, he made pilgrimages to the shrine of
the Imam Riza, and on one occasion he actually walked
the entire distance of eight hundred miles from Isfahan*
He also performed the menial task of trimming the
thousand candles which illuminated the sacred courts,
and the incident inspired the following verses by
Shaykh Bahai:
The angels from the high heavens gather like moths
O'er the candles lighted in this Paradise-like tomb :
O trimmer, manipulate the scissors with care,
Or else thou mayest clip the wings of Gabriel.
Among the^ gifts of this monarch to the Shrine was
his bow, which bears his name—a priceless treasure, little
valued by Persians. He also visited Najaf, where he
swept out the tomb of his ancestor Ali, and in every
way he stimulated and encouraged religious feeling,
more especially as expressed in pilgrimages. The fact